Solar E-Waste Market Scoping Report Outlines Challenges and Opportunities for E-Waste Innovations in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sustainable management of solar e-waste is an emerging priority for the off-grid solar sector. An estimated 26.2 million solar lanterns and solar home systems have already reached their end-of-life in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In Kenya alone, 3-4% of the 55,000 tons of total e-waste produced in 2017 was from pico solar products and solar home systems. Despite action on behalf of some key actors, e-waste management efforts in sub-Saharan Africa remain nascent. In an effort to catalyze partnerships and support innovation for off-grid e-waste management, in March 2019 the Global LEAP Awards launched the Solar E-Waste Challenge.

This Solar E-Waste Market Scoping report, lead by Dr. Declan Murray with key inputs from GOGLA and Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE), informed the design of the Challenge, particularly in the categories of prizes and application evaluation criteria. It will also act as a baseline for late program impact assessments.

The report identifies several barriers the Solar E-Waste Challenge should seek to address, including

  • Costs involved in the responsible management of solar e-waste: The primary costs associated with e-waste management come from securing waste from consumers, transporting it to a central location, storing it, and then processing (where such facilities exist).
  • Current data gaps: Data gaps on the specific quantity, location and material make-up of solar e-waste create a major challenge for downstream recycling partners. This is particularly true in non-vertically-integrated business models. There is also a lack of knowledge among solar companies around the location of recycling facilities, particular processes, and their associated costs.
  • Quality and trust: Ensuring the quality of product performance in repair processes and maintaining the trust of consumers, waste partners, and industry peers are further challenges when implementing effective solar e-waste management.

Product manufacturers, distributors, financial institutions and government stakeholders must invest in a robust solar e-waste management ecosystem to ensure the long-term sustainability of the off-grid sector. This analysis is designed to inform approaches and priorities of off-grid e-waste actors, donors, and investors. Given the nascent stage of solar e-waste management in sub-Saharan Africa, we hope this piece will catalyze further research on the topic.

Read the full report here.

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